Though the concept of taking a baseline was introduced to me originally by Karen Clay as a weathervane to measure the before-and-after of somatic sessions, I’ve found that oftentimes even just taking the 5 minutes to guide my client (or myself) through a full inventory enacts significant change of its own.
With this in mind, I offer the experience for you to try. Read these instructions completely before starting or, even better, have a friend read them aloud to you, and then switch roles.
Disclaimer yadda yadda: The following is offered freely as felt-sense education. It is not therapy and does not replace medical diagnosis or treatment. Please use your discretion in participating in this exploration as you do so at your own risk. If it hurts, stop. If you are currently suffering from chronic pain or acute injury, attempt these instructions only under direct medical supervision.
Take your baseline inventory
1) Lay on your back, legs straight, in anatomical position on a firm surface that’s comfortable enough to lay on for a while, like carpeted floor or a yoga mat. Your palms will be facing the ceiling, fingers loose, arms gently sloping laterally away from your hips as they run down your sides.
2) Take note of your next three breaths, allowing each to be an opportunity to surrender further into the floor. Notice what areas of your body feel heavier and grounded as your breaths allow for softer tissues to melt.
3) Focus your attention on the stamps made by your heels. How big are they? The size of a quarter? A dime? A coaster? Are the stamps perfectly symmetrical, or more kidney shaped? How do they differ from each other?
4) Now move to your Achilles arches and explore the space made by them. Where are they the highest? How are they shaped? How many fingers could you imaging being able to stack under them?
5) Continue to scan up your body, slowly exploring your peaks and valleys. Check in occasionally and breathe away any unneeded tension that may have arisen since you last checked; a clenched jaw, a fist, a pair of flexed feet. When you come across any blank spots, look for a while and move on; try not to get stuck. Everything that’s going on in your body is there for a reason, and maybe now isn’t the time for conversing with that particular area.
I recommend the following method for most of my clients – if this one doesn’t work for you for some reason, create your own which allows you to get up slowly and comfortably. Take care when rising after doing somatic work – oftentimes people are rather light headed (it’s from the awesome).
1) Slowly bend one knee at a time toward the ceiling, dragging your heel along the floor, ending with your knees bent and feet hit width apart. Bonus points for doing this a few times and noticing the shift that occurs in your posture, particularly in your hips and low back arch.
2) With knees up, slowly roll onto your side into a fetal position. Take care to maintain as much of the relaxed flop you’ve cultivated as you can – it will likely be gone soon enough, so don’t be in a hurry.
From here, utilize your elbows and knees to assist yourself to all fours, again maintaining as much lethargy in your limbs as you can.
3) While on all fours, tuck your toes under and shift your weight to the balls of your feet, aligning your center of gravity over your ankles before standing straight up
Congratulations! You’ve just taken an inventory! Now you have a tangible concept of where your body is in space and dimension, and a greater understanding of what’s going well and what might need further attention. Did you notice anything that changed or improved as you were taking your inventory?
Let me know if you want more.
Take care of you,
NOTE: You may find after your initial three breaths that you already feel different than you did before you laid on the floor. Or you may be struggling with holding on throughout the entire process and find doing this super frustrating.
Either way or in between, try your best to observe and refrain from judgement of your somatic practice. Every day and every baseline is different and there is no competition — in fact, though somatic education is all about comfort and relaxing, many of the most profound somatic sessions are the ones that serve as an evaluation tool to help you better clarify where to focus further attention.